It is difficult to give thanks in a time that seems so dark. War, terror, and genocide stalk nearly every corner of the globe. The insecurity we felt after 9/11 is amplified by the fears, for the first time in a generation, of great-power war — or even world war. China is run by authoritarian kleptocrats. Latin America is run by criminal gangs. Russia is run by a revanchist tyrant. Europe is run by a discredited and feeble gerontocracy in deep denial over reality. And the Middle East is run by fanatical killers who will gladly provide the sparks that light the whole thing ablaze.
Then there is these United States. America too is governed by fools, and the political phenomena of the past few months bears this out. Americans do not trust their government to get anything right – to pay the bills, to respond to hurricanes, to analyze intelligence, to hold to red lines, to build websites – and certainly not to tell the good refugee from the bad. The personality to come along and give voice to these concerns of total fecklessness and incompetence at the highest levels is thriving. At least he recognizes BS for what it is, and calls it like it is, even if he himself is the highest ranking BSer in the land.
Yet we Americans should be thankful, very thankful, for our place within the world. Thanksgiving serves as a reminder that for us today, compared to the history of our country and the planet, all the problems of modern America are rich people problems. A lot of our problems are problems of choice. We have human and social capital and natural resources in great abundance that we simply choose not to use.
Tomorrow blue collar working stiffs across the country are going to eat feasts that would put all but a handful of emperors in history to shame. The United States in 2015 is still the envy not only of every country in the world but every country in history. Our controversies are the controversies of a nation that has prospered to an unbelievable degree. Our policy questions are more about how to make almost universal educations and benefits that were once reserved for royalty.
Yes, the status quo is broken. Yes, we are ruled by idiots. Yes, there is corruption and mismanagement and very real despair. But anyone wondering what to be thankful for just ought to look around. Go to an American grocery store on Wednesday, a Thanksgiving dinner in Thursday, and then a mall on Friday, and then think on the fact that most of the country thinks we’re in a recession and headed on the wrong track. Be thankful that our biggest problem is an isolated authoritarian who is nonetheless term limited and checked by constitutional counterweights. Compared to surviving a winter barely living indoors, and eating only what you can kill, we are doing rather well.
The rest of the world still has many millions of people who live in such poverty. Homeless and hopeless, life for them is little changed from the dark old days of warlords and scimitars. Things are very dark in far too many corners of the earth.
But there, too, we can have hope. Our current leadership may not grasp the indispensability of America to the world — but Americans do. We did not seek the charge to stand against the foes of civilization and freedom. We never do. But we will do the job when the job comes to us. America is not without her faults. But it has within its people a stoic spirit that for all the weaknesses of an era of soft heads and hearts is still firm as iron. When the world is at its worst, we are at our best.
So let us be thankful for this: that we are incredibly fortunate to be Americans. We have good fortune to live in these times, dumb as they are. We have the luck to be born at a time in history when anyone can prosper and thrive. We have the blessing and the privilege, whether born to deep roots or newly arrived from strange lands, of being the greatest people in the history of the man.
The world is dark. But there is a light in the darkness, and it is us.